Sunday, June 20

Navalni case: Russia vetoes entry of the president of the European Parliament and an EU commissioner in retaliation for sanctions | International

David Sassoli, last Wednesday at the European Parliament, in Brussels.
David Sassoli, last Wednesday at the European Parliament, in Brussels.DPA via Europa Press / Europa Press

Russia has banned eight senior officials from European Union countries from entering its territory in retaliation for the sanctions imposed in March by the EU on Russian citizens in the case of the opposition Alexei Navalni, who recovered in Germany from a deadly poisoning after the one that the West sees the Kremlin’s hand and that is now serving a sentence in Russia for a controversial case. Among those included on the Moscow blacklist this Friday are the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, very critical of Russia for the persecution of the opposition leader, and the vice president of the Commission for Values ​​and Transparency, the Czech Vera Jourová, who has accused Moscow on numerous occasions of launching disinformation campaigns in the EU.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 02, 2021 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, charged with violating the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement, stands inside a glass cell during a court hearing in Moscow. - EU foreign ministers will discuss the case of Alexei Navalny when they hold talks on April 19, 2021, Germany said, as fears grew of the hunger-striking Kremlin critic's deteriorating health while he is being held in a Russian penal colony. (Photo by Handout / Moscow City Court press service / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT

The United States and the EU sanction a dozen high-ranking Russian officials for the poisoning and arrest of Navalni

These latest sanctions further strain the deteriorating relationship between the EU and Russia, increasingly damaged by the case of the Russian opponent, who was treated in a German hospital last August after being attacked in Siberia with a substance that German military laboratories, France, Sweden and the International Organization for the Control of Chemical Weapons identified as Novichok, a neurotoxin for military use manufactured in the former Soviet Union. Moscow and the West are going through their worst relations since the Cold War also due to the last major Russian military maneuvers along the border with Ukraine, which have alarmed the West.

Also on the list of those sanctioned by Russia are the head of the Berlin Prosecutor’s Office, Jörg Raupach, whom Moscow has accused several times of not providing reliable data on the Navalni case; Jacques Maire, member of the French delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, who has dealt with the case of the opponent; Asa Scott, head of the Swedish Defense Investigation Agency and one of the people who pointed out that Navalni had been poisoned with Novichok; and several senior officials from the Baltic countries, with whom Russia is increasingly clashing.

In a joint statement, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen; and Sassoli himself expressed a resounding condemnation of the Russian sanctions on Friday night. “This action is unacceptable, lacks any legal justification and is totally unfounded. It targets the EU directly, not just the people affected, ”they said.

Moscow had already warned that it would react to “anti-Russian sanctions.” Last March and in a coordinated maneuver, the EU and the United States sanctioned several officials close to President Vladimir Putin for poisoning and arresting Navalni as soon as he returned to Moscow, and vetoed his entry into the Union countries and the United States. and they frozen their financial assets in those territories. The EU also added to the blacklist another group of senior Russian officials accused of violating the rights of LGTBI people in the Russian region of Chechnya.

This Friday, in a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused the Union of sanctioning Russia “illegally” and without evidence and of “ignoring” Russian proposals to resolve thorny issues through an open and informal dialogue. . The ministry headed by veteran Sergei Lavrov has charged Brussels for “openly and deliberately undermining” the independence of the Eurasian country’s domestic and foreign policy to “impose its own unilateral concept of world order”, and to do so with the “knowledge and encouragement ”from the United States, whom he has accused of wanting to turn Europe into a scene of confrontation. “We reserve the right to continue reacting to any hostile action by the EU of this type,” Foreign spokeswoman María Zajárova also commented in a note.

Repression of the Navalni group

The Russian authorities continue to tighten the circle to try to completely eradicate the Navalni organization. This Friday, Russia’s state financial control service added the opposition’s political movement to its watch list of extremist or terrorist organizations. The measure implies the total freezing of the accounts and any financial assets of the opposition network, which is being prosecuted for extremist activities and which has already announced its dissolution cornered by justice. Russian law allows the financial control service (Rosfinmonitoring) to include in its list people and organizations suspected of terrorism or extremism without waiting for a conviction.

The Navalni network, which never managed to register as a political party legally in Russia, has reached headquarters in more than 40 Russian provinces. It is now included in the list of extremists compiled by Rosfinmonitoring in position 461. A movement that anticipates the declaration of justice, which would mean the total banning of the organization and also of the Navalni Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). Both entities are being tried these days in Moscow behind closed doors and with evidence declared secret. If the justice system finally defines them as “extremists”, their members, donors or supporters are exposed to large fines and penalties of up to six years in prison.

The judicial persecution and the repressive siege that the authorities have increasingly tightened on the Navalni movement and its allies has led to the closure, as announced this week by Leonid Volkov, the main political strategist of the opposition, who lives outside Russia . All his offices have been dissolved and, by order of the prosecution, his accounts had already been frozen. Now the Rosfinmonitoring must verify this and, in collaboration with the Russian Foreign Ministry, inform the international organizations fighting terrorism or extremism.

The lawyer Ivan Pavlov, this Friday when leaving the Moscow courts.
The lawyer Ivan Pavlov, this Friday when leaving the Moscow courts. Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

The Kremlin’s pressure on dissent is increasing and in recent months cases against opponents, independent media and civil rights organizations have multiplied. This Thursday, the authorities took another step and launched a criminal investigation against a reputed lawyer who heads the legal team that defends organizations linked to Navalni in the case of extremism. Iván Pavlov, one of the country’s best-known human rights lawyers, has been accused of revealing details of a police investigation not related to the opponent, but to another high-level case against an investigative journalist, Iván Safronov, accused of spy for NATO.

Lawyer Pavlov, who heads a human rights group called Group 29 (like the article in the Russian Constitution that guarantees freedom of thought and expression), faces a sentence of up to three months in prison. His organization claims that the prosecution is trying to intimidate them and put them out of circulation. “The arrest of Ivan [Pavlov] it is related to your professional activity. We believe that these actions by the forces of order are exclusively intended to scare Iván and his colleagues to force them to reject an active position in the defense of their clients, ”says Grupo 29 in an open letter published this Friday.

This week the lawyer had remarked that the team of lawyers would try to reveal as much information as possible about the case against the Navalni political movement and its foundation, despite the fact that the evidence has been declared secret. Pavlov pointed out that, although the trial is behind closed doors and the evidence has been declared classified, there were some materials that “under no circumstances” could be declared secret.

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